Why functioning across subject places may possibly advantage you in the REF

Researchers typically talk of the tensions surrounding interdisciplinary investigation. They’re encouraged to collaborate with other departments but then run into troubles when it comes to the study evaluation processes or acquiring completely employed.

There is a suspicion that interdisciplinary study fairs significantly less nicely in the Investigation Excellence Framework (REF) – the approach which determines how a lot research funding United kingdom universities get.

In a latest study undertaking that touched on the experiences of interdisciplinary researchers, 1 of my respondents argued, “interdisciplinarity and creative boundary crossings are encouraged on a single degree but discouraged in career terms.”

Dissenting voices from this narrative are uncommon. Nonetheless, as someone whose operate has ranged across geography, sociology and criminology as well as pedagogic and greater education investigation, these concerns do not fully accord with my personal experiences.

There are undoubtedly substantial, growing institutional pressures upon researchers to work amongst and across disciplines. Increasingly single disciplinary university departments are currently being reconfigured into multidisciplinary colleges. For example, Royal Geographical Society figures suggest that single discipline geography departments have declined by in excess of a single third since the mid 1990s.

Equivalent trends are discernible across the social sciences and humanities and, to an extent, the sciences. One of the reasons underpinning these moves is the potential study (and teaching) synergies amongst previously separate disciplines.

Main funding initiatives at each the postgraduate and postdoctoral levels are also now a lot more regularly interdisciplinary in nature, guided by a set of Investigation Councils Uk cross-council themes this kind of as “global uncertainties” and “lifelong health and wellbeing”.

There are inherent advantages to interdisciplinary investigation that are nicely known. It is often in the spaces amongst disciplines that modern perspectives, collaborations and remedies emerge. Interdisciplinary researchers usually speak of getting more interested, engaged and stimulated by their function.

In job terms, I am not convinced that the image is necessarily as grim for interdisciplinary researchers as is sometimes created out. In my very own knowledge, interdisciplinarity has regularly confirmed to be a car into new possibilities, and on a few events, out of some difficult scenarios.

As we wait for the benefits of REF 2014 and start to believe forward to REF 2020, I wondered if there was an substitute interdisciplinary story that could be created.

Here are three ideas:

  • Really don’t think about that difficult REF narratives are limited to interdisciplinary investigation. I have identified, and knowledgeable, numerous instances of convoluted narratives thrown about study that is positioned firmly inside of single disciplines.
  • Search to far more than one particular panel. Interdisciplinary investigation is mobile. Most interdisciplinary researchers I know could submit their work to two or 3 distinct panels. On moving institutions in 2013 my research went from being aimed at the geography panel at my preceding institution to the sociology panel at my existing one, (although we will quickly see what the sociology panellists manufactured of it). The problem here isn’t REF itself but how some institutions interpret the procedure and try out to second guess it. Institutions could be a lot more versatile. If your research is good quality it must locate a house. Nonetheless, if your institution is resistant to the possible mobility of your investigation, try the suggestion below.
  • Alter institutions. Most of the REF narrative normally is written from a Russell Group point of view. It may well shock several to hear that these are not the only institutions in Uk increased schooling. REF wariness of interdisciplinarity is, to an extent at least, institution particular. In my experience, smaller institutions who are significantly less reliant on REF funding are a lot more prepared take risks with interdisciplinary investigation. If your own REF subject heads are reluctant to enter your submissions, appear elsewhere. There are plenty a lot more institutions across the nation, probably even just down the street, who would be far more welcoming.

It is easy for me to be so assured about the area of my study in the present REF of course. The outcomes are not out until the 18 December and I have the end of semester and piles of marking to negotiate prior to I fear about that. On the 18 I will be sitting down to the university Christmas meal two hrs after the final results are passed on to me. I’m even now hoping to be consuming turkey rather than humble pie that day.

Tim Hall is professor of interdisciplinary social scientific studies and head of the division of utilized social scientific studies at the University of Winchester.

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